New Year's Honours: Hackney founder of Islington adoption agency awarded OBE

Portrait photo of Alan Burnell smiling.

Alan Burnell, co-founder of Islington's Family Futures has been awarded an OBE. - Credit: Family Futures

The Hackney founder of an Islington adoption agency has been awarded an OBE for his work improving the lives of adopted children and their families.

Alan Burnell, co-founder and non-executive director of Family Futures, a voluntary adoption agency and independent fostering agency based in Islington, was honoured in the Queen's New Year Honours list 2021.

The list recognises the extraordinary achievements and service of people across the country.

READ MORE: New Year's Honours: Hackney 'Mama' and Marks and Spencer's hero among those honoured

On receiving news of his OBE, Alan said he was "surprised" and "delighted": "This work, and the work of Family Futures, has been dear to my heart and something I have been passionate about for many years."

Alan was born the son of a London waitress and adopted as a baby by a couple in south London.

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He moved to Hackney after university and trained as a social worker.

His job covered areas like Tower Hamlets and Walthamstow and eventually, he became one of a team of counsellors at the post-adoption centre in Camden, offering advice and guidance to anyone touched by adoption.

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But, after the birth of his first child, Alan became more preoccupied with his origins and eventually discovered both his birth parents had died. 

READ MORE: New year's honours: Whittington nurse and Islington school founder honoured

Nevertheless, he was able to establish a good relationship with his birth cousin, who knew his mother and family well. 

Alan set up Family Futures in 1998 with his wife Jay Vaughan, after leaving the Camden adoption centre. 

The not-for-profit company focuses on providing therapeutic help and support for adopted children and their parents. 

READ MORE: In-care Islington children being “failed” by borough’s poor adoption record

Alan designed the service to address the different needs of young people who were not adopted as babies but as children who were removed from their birth families due to abuse and neglect. 

Since then, over the past 20 years, Family Futures has supported families and helped adopted, fostered and special guardianship children heal from the legacy of early life trauma, abuse and neglect. 

Alan thanked both staff and his co-founder wife, and said he was inspired by the parents and children he had met and worked with over his career.

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